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Asian Elephants: FREE CONTACT TRAINING OF ANNIE at Milwaukee Zoo (1989)

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Uploaded on Oct 5, 2011

Asian elephant Annie, and her close companion Tamara, shared an elephant barn/enclosure at the Milwaukee Zoo until 1994, when videotaped recordings of cruel beatings and abusive training elicited public demands that the two elephants be sent to the PAWS sanctuary. Today Annie (Tamara died in 2002) spends her days roaming and grazing among the trees, swimming in the lake, dusting and mud-bathing before lying down to sleep on a sunny hillside.

The archaic management of elephants by zoos that have been using the Free Contact system, has been the focus of controversy between AZA and animal welfare organizations, as well as many zoo professionals who advocate the use of Protected Contact management, a safer and kinder approach to elephant management.

Free Contact allows elephant keepers and handlers to share the same space with the elephant while using the cruel weapon known as the bullhook, the ankus, or the "guide", to control the animal and to protect the handler. This system has caused injury and death to keepers and considerable suffering to elephants. Protected Contact requires that keepers work with the animal behind barriers and eliminates the use of any weapon or punishment for the elephant. It is a system that ensures the safety of the keeper and the welfare and comfort of the elephant.

In August of this year, The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) board of directors has approved new standards that will maximize occupational safety of elephant care professionals at AZA-accredited and AZA-certified facilities. The recent release of this new policy by AZA is a giant first step toward maximizing the physical and psychological health of the elephants as well.

The Elephant Manager's Association opposes these new standards. In a recent statement, EMA wrote: "It is the opinion of the EMA that evaluations and decisions of this sort are best made by elephant care professionals intimately involved in the program as opposed to policy makers that casually observe from a distance."

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